With just over four weeks remaining until Selection Sunday, it’s time to start taking a weekly look at teams on the bubble. Since this is the first edition of the season, the list is fairly extensive, but with each week more teams will move themselves firmly into the field of 68 while others will fall off the bubble entirely.
Sunday’s overtime win at Duke moved the Hurricanes into the RPI Top 40 and gave them a signature win. Four of their seven losses came without the services of big man Reggie Johnson and DeQuan Jones, so the committee will (or at least should) take that into account. As it stands, Miami is 1-4 against the Top 50 and 3-7 versus the Top 100, but they don’t really have a bad loss. Losing at home to bubble neighbor N.C. State might come back to haunt them, but Saturday’s trip to Florida State gives the Canes the chance to pick up another resume-building win.
North Carolina State (17-7)
The aforementioned win over Miami is the best one on the Wolfpack’s profile. They rank 54th in the RPI and are 1-5 against the Top 50 and just 8-7 versus the Top 150. Six of their wins are over sub-200 teams, and a home loss to Georgia Tech isn’t doing them any favors. They get a chance at revenge against the Yellow Jackets this week prior to a critical set of games at Duke and home against Florida State and North Carolina. If they get swept there, you can pretty much write off the Wolfpack.
The Flyers have now lost four straight heading into two “can’t lose” games against Fordham and Charlotte. The good news is they have four wins against the Top 50 and seven versus the Top 100, but they also have a pair of sub-200 losses to drag them down. Dayton’s RPI is in free-fall at 71, and at this point they may need to go 6-1 in their last seven games with the lone loss coming against Xavier or UMass.
La Salle (17-7)
La Salle is just in front of Dayton in the RPI, but in many ways, their profile isn’t as strong. They have no Top 50 wins and are 4-5 against the Top 100. Losses to Robert Morris and Delaware will be hard to overcome, and since nearly half of their wins have come against sub-200 teams, schedule strength certainly doesn’t work in their favor. Following a road trip to Richmond, the Explorers take on Saint Louis, UMass, and Temple during their make-or-break stretch.
The Minutemen are another of the nine A-10 teams in the RPI Top 100, checking in at number 68. They have wins over Saint Louis, Saint Joe’s, and Davidson, but they have an brutal loss to Rhode Island as well as losses to fellow bubble teams Miami and La Salle to go with an ugly non-conference strength of schedule. UMass has just five wins against the Top 150, with eight of their wins coming against sub-200 squads. Their next six games are against Top 100 teams though, so they have a huge opportunity to improve their profile in the coming weeks.
Saint Joseph’s (15-9)
I was ready to write off the Hawks when they lost at Penn to fall to 12-8, but they have responded by winning three of four. They are 44th in the RPI and 6-6 against the Top 100 with their best victories against Creighton, Drexel, La Salle, and Dayton. However, they also have losses against American and Charlotte, which leave them limited margin for error. Remaining games against Saint Louis, UMass, and Temple are all at home, and if the Hawks can go 2-1 in those contests without suffering a bad loss, their case becomes more compelling.
Saint Louis (18-5)
The Billikens are 0-2 against the Top 50, but they are currently 34th in the RPI thanks to seven wins against teams ranked 51-100. Their only bad loss came at Loyola Marymount, and barring a complete collapse, I like their chances to get in. A pair of challenging road games against Saint Joseph’s and La Salle are up next for Saint Louis, but the following three games are all winnable.
Just a couple months ago, I never would have guessed we’d be discussing Xavier as a bubble team, but they are now 7-8 since the brawl against Cincinnati. Their best win during that stretch was against Saint Joe’s, and they blew a golden opportunity to win at Memphis on Saturday when they blew a late lead. They have now dropped out of the RPI Top 50, and while wins over Vanderbilt, Purdue, and Cincinnati are nice, they seem like distant memories. The Musketeers have four games against other top A-10 teams, three of which are on the road. If they can go 5-2 in their last seven games, that should solidify their bid.
Iowa State (17-7)
Following home wins against Kansas and K-State and a road victory at Oklahoma, the Cyclones’ seed was on the rise. However, they lost by two at Oklahoma State on Monday night to drop to 7-4 in the league. Even so, they are inside the Top 50 of the RPI and have a pair of Top 50 wins. Unfortunately they didn’t do much in the non-conference, and they still face Baylor twice along with road trips to Missouri and Kansas State. If they lose all four of those and finish 10-8 in the league, they are probably still safe, but they certainly can’t afford any bad losses.
The Wildcats have gone just 5-4 since beating Missouri by 16 in early January, which leaves them at 6-5 in the Big 12 with a pair of losses to Oklahoma. The good news is they have three Top 50 wins and don’t have a bad loss, but their upcoming schedule is rough. K-State’s next five games are at Texas, Kansas at home, at Baylor, at Missouri, and home versus Iowa State. It’s not inconceivable for them to lose all five games, and even 1-4 might put them in jeopardy.
Home wins over Temple and Iowa State are nice, but the Longhorns are 2-8 against the Top 100 with 10 of their wins coming at the expense of sub-150 teams. They may need to go 6-1 down the stretch to make a case for a bid, and even that might not be enough.
UC’s RPI is just inside the Top 100 due to a poor strength of schedule and their early loss to Presbyterian, but this is definitely one of the best 37 at-large teams in the country. They have a home victory over Notre Dame plus road wins at Connecticut, Georgetown, and Pitt. Outside of two games against Marquette and a home game with Louisville, the remaining schedule is manageable.
The Huskies are in a tailspin right now after getting crushed at Louisville on Monday. They have lost five of their last six games and are 3-7 in their last 10 contests. Saturday’s game at Syracuse could get ugly if the Huskies come with the same effort as they did against Louisville, and they still have home games against Marquette, Syracuse, and Pitt. They are still 23rd in the RPI with eight Top 100 wins and the top-rated schedule, but I’m not sure an 8-10 Big East record would be enough for them to get in based on their recent play.
Notre Dame (15-8)
If you based this solely on league games, the Irish would be a lock, but they went just 8-5 in non-conference play with their best win against Detroit. Still, Notre Dame has five Top 50 wins at this point, which is substantially more than most bubble teams can claim. Outside of a home-and-home against West Virginia and a road trip to Georgetown, the schedule isn’t that bad, and a 13-5 conference record is a distincy possibility.
After losing eight straight and starting 0-7 in the Big East, the Panthers have bounced back to win four straight. The fact that point guard Tray Woodall missed a number of those losses works in Pitt’s favor, but they have to keep winning. If they can hold serve at home and split their final four road games, they would be 9-9 in the league. Win another game or two in the conference tournament and the Panthers may end up dancing after all.
Seton Hall (15-8)
I had the Pirates as one of my last four in, but they are in serious trouble after losing six in a row. They still rank 33rd in the RPI with three Top 50 wins and no losses to teams outside of the Top 100, but those numbers mean less with each subsequent defeat. Seton Hall needs to go 5-2 over the last seven games to finish at .500 in the league, but even though the schedule isn’t awful, that seems overly optimistic given how they are playing right now.
It probably seems odd to call the Illini a bubble team in light of their wins over Ohio State and Michigan State, but hear me out. They are 5-5 in the league with road games left at Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin to go with home dates versus Purdue and Michigan. The fact that Illinois owns five wins over teams in the Top 50 definitely helps, but I’m not sure this team can afford to finish under .500 in league play.
The Gophers have responded well after a 0-4 start in the Big Ten, and they have five of their final seven games at home. However, they play Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Indiana in four of those contests and also play at Northwestern and Wisconsin. Minnesota is ranked 49th in the RPI, and they have three Top 50 wins as well as a winning record against the Top 100, which many teams can’t claim. That said, they can’t afford to go 2-5 in their last seven games, which is not outside the realm of possibility.
Northwestern ranks 36th in the RPI, boasts a high strength of schedule, and owns three Top 50 wins, but most projections don’t have them in the field. That’s likely because they are 4-8 versus the Top 100 and lost to Baylor, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota by a combined 104 points. The schedule isn’t awful with three games left against Iowa and Penn State as well as opportunities at home against Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio State, any of which would help their cause.
The Boilers played tough against Ohio State, but they have now lost four of their last five games with no schedule relief in sight. Home games remain against Northwestern and Michigan State, and they also travel to Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana. As is the case with the other three Big Ten bubble teams, a .500 conference record is critical. Purdue’s five Top 50 wins definitely give them a leg up on other bubble teams.
After a pair of solid road wins at Cal and Stanford, the Wildcats are making a push to get back in the race. They are now 7-4 in the league with their last three losses coming by a total of five points. Arizona has just one Top 50 win and is just 8-8 versus the Top 150. That said, if the Wildcats can win at Washington, they might wind up 14-4 in the league, but as with most of these teams, the margin for error is negligible.
At 48, Cal is the lone Pac-12 squad in the Top 50, but they have no Top 50 wins. They do have six wins against teams ranked 51-100, but eight of their victories have come against sub-200 clubs. Cal’s two toughest remaining matchups are probably their final two games on the road against Colorado and Stanford, but they have no chances at a true resume-enhancing victory from here on out.
The Buffs are just 72nd in the RPI, but they do have wins over Arizona and Washington. However, they did nothing in the non-conference and have losses to a number of fellow bubble teams, including Colorado State, Wyoming, Cal, and Stanford. Colorado is just 3-6 against the Top 100 and only 5-7 against the Top 150. They probably need to run the table to have a legitimate shot.
I’m honestly not sure why this team seems to be receiving so much consideration for a bid. They are 3-5 against the Top 100 with half of their wins coming versus sub-200 teams. The Cardinal have lost four of their last five contests after a 5-1 start in the league, and losses to Butler and Washington State won’t do them any favors. Not unlike Colorado, Stanford probably needs to win out in the regular season to make a more compelling case for a bid.
The Huskies are now 8-1 in their last nine games and are alone in first place in the Pac-12 at 9-2. The talent is definitely there, but the quality wins really aren’t. Washington is 0-4 against the Top 50, but they have no losses to teams outside of the Top 100, which definitely helps. They play just two of their final seven games at home, but if they can run the table to go 16-2 in the league, I can’t see them getting left out.
The computer numbers are solid, but the fact remains that this team’s best wins came in mid-November. Still, the Tide are 7-6 against the Top 100 with their lone bad loss coming at South Carolina. Going 3-1 (or maybe even 2-2) in remaining games against Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Mississippi while winning their other games should definitely be enough.
The Hogs still have no road or neutral wins, but they do have three Top 50 wins against Michigan, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt. They need to find a way to beat someone on the road while at least splitting games against Florida, Alabama, Mississippi State, and Mississippi. Nine of their wins have come against sub-150 teams, and there isn’t much on their profile outside of the three wins mentioned above.
Even after going 5-7 in their last 12 games, the Rebels are still 51st in the RPI. Their non-conference win over Miami looks better now, but they are just 7-8 against the Top 150. They missed a chance at another solid win when they lost in double overtime to Alabama over the weekend. The remaining schedule is tough with road trips to Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Arkansas as well as home games versus Vandy and Alabama. The chances to improve their profile are there, but I’m not sure the Rebels will be able to take advantage.
Colorado State (15-7)
CSU’s win over San Diego State a couple weeks ago was definitely impressive, but it’s their lone Top 50 win. However, they don’t have any sub-100 losses, which is a huge factor in their number 31 ranking in the RPI. The quality of their wins is an issue, and they are just 3-7 against the Top 100. They need to take care of business on the road against the lesser teams in the MWC and probably split a four-game stretch featuring home games with Wyoming, New Mexico, and UNLV and a road trip to San Diego State.
New Mexico (19-4)
The quantity of wins for the Lobos is there, but quality is another matter. Nine of their wins have come against sub-200 (or non-Division One) or teams with their best victories coming at home against Saint Louis and Colorado State. A loss to Santa Clara in the 76 Classic opener is the biggest blemish on their profile, but they need to find a way to beat either UNLV or SDSU during the back half of the MWC schedule.
The only thing keeping the Cowboys on the bubble right now is last Saturday’s win over UNLV. Just three of their 18 wins have come against teams in the RPI Top 50, and they have losses to Green Bay and TCU to drag them down. With all of their tough games between now and the end of the season taking place on the road, the Cowboys will definitely have earned a bid if they get one.
Last week’s home win over Gonzaga kept the Cougars alive, but that is their only Top 50 win at this point. They are 5-0 against teams ranked between 51 and 100, but they also have losses to Utah State and Loyola Marymount to hurt their overall profile. Their only game left against a tournament-caliber team comes when they travel to Gonzaga, but they can’t afford to lose any of their other remaining WCC contests. If they fall to the Zags, they will likely need to beat either Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s in the conference tournament.
Central Florida (17-6)
The Knights have wins over Memphis and UConn, but other than that, there isn’t much meat on their resume. Overall they are just 8-6 against the Top 200, including a brutal loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. UCF probably needs to run the table or at least go 6-1 over their final seven games, which would include wins over some combination of Marshall, Memphis, and Southern Miss.
Davidson certainly had a more compelling case when they were undefeated in the SoCon, but a loss to Samford changed all that. The “neutral” court win over Kansas is obviously huge, but they have no other Top 100 wins and are just 4-4 versus the Top 150. Twelve of their victories have come against sub-200 or non-Division One teams, which makes their BracketBusters matchup against Wichita State an absolute must-win. Even so, the Wildcats probably need to win the SoCon Tournament to get in.
If not for the loss at Fordham, the Crimson would be a virtual lock to make the tournament, but as it stands, they should still feel relatively comfortable. The rank 40th in the RPI with a pair of Top 50 wins and just one bad loss. The fact that Princeton, Yale, and Penn all rank just outside the Top 100 helps their strength of schedule, which should get better following this weekend’s road games against Penn and Princeton.
Losses to Hofstra, Manhattan, and Siena have probably killed the Gaels’ at-large hopes, and a BracketBusters game against Nevada won’t move the dial much in that direction either. They have zero Top 40 wins, and while they are 4-2 against the Top 100, two sub-200 losses pretty much offset that. Iona has a big game coming up on Friday against Loyola (MD), who is tied with them atop the MAAC.
Long Beach State (17-6)
Much was made of the 49ers’ brutal early schedule, and it has helped propel them to 35th in the RPI. Five of their six losses have come against Top 50 teams, and their win at Pitt is starting to look good once again. They have also beaten Xavier and are currently undefeated in the Big West. LBSU has a great opportunity at Creighton in the BracketBusters, but I don’t think a loss there should remove them from at-large consideration either.
After beating Xavier over the weekend, the Tigers are now 20th in the RPI with five Top 100 wins and no bad losses. Their next five games are winnable, and they finish at Marshall, home versus UCF, and at Tulsa. A 7-1 record down the stretch would put them at 13-3 in C-USA, which should be enough to get in. The conference tournament is also in Memphis this year, so that should pay dividends in the event those become must-wins.
Middle Tennessee State (21-4)
Saturday’s 15-point loss at Denver certainly doesn’t help, but the Blue Raiders are still inside the RPI Top 50. Unfortunately, they have no Top 50 wins and no other chances to get one over the remainder of the year, but they do have three Top 100 victories to their credit. They proved that they are a tournament-caliber team in a close loss at Vanderbilt, but MTSU probably still needs to win out and at least reach the finals of the Sun Belt Tournament.
Oral Roberts (21-5)
ORU is currently 41st in the RPI with three Top 100 wins but none versus the Top 50. An early loss against UT-San Antonio is by far their worst defeat, and 12 of their 21 wins have come at the expense of sub-200 teams. They should win their four remaining league games, and a win at Akron in the BracketBusters would help a little but not a lot. No matter what their computer numbers look like, they still probably need to win the Summit League to get in.